Post Mortem Computed Tomography: An innovative tool for teaching anatomy within pre-registration nursing curricula


Background There is significant change throughout the world regarding Post Mortem Computed Tomography (PMCT) as an adjunct or a replacement to the traditional invasive autopsy. Of interest, is the ability to demonstrate visually two and three dimensional normal soft tissue, organ and skeletal anatomy, as well as natural disease and trauma pathology.

Objectives The objective was to compare formal traditional methods of teaching anatomy and pathology (pictures and diagrams) to pre-registration student nurses with supplementary PMCT 2/3D generated images, videos and printed anatomical models. The specific objective was to determine if these tools would increase the students’ perception of their understanding and learning experience of the subject area.

Design A quasi-experimental within-subject design was chosen.

Setting A School of Nursing and Midwifery within a Higher Education Institution in the UK.

Participants Purposeful sampling of 57 voluntary informed consented pre-registration student nurses.

Method Students were initially exposed to teaching of normal anatomy and common fractures using traditional methods. Data was then collected following the teaching session using a questionnaire entailing both quantitative and qualitative elements. The teaching session was then repeated with the same students but with the inclusion of PMCT of all the same normal anatomy and fractures. Data was then collected again using the same questionnaire. Both questionnaires were then compared.

Results The quantitative findings proved highly significantly proved (P = < 0.01) that the inclusion of Post Mortem Computed Tomography when teaching normal anatomy and pathology increases preregistration nursing students’ perception of their understanding and learning experience. The qualitative results revealed three positive themes concerning visual learning, realism and patient empathy.

Conclusion Including Post Mortem Computed Tomography imagery enables nurse academics to provide students with a virtual tour of the human body and a rich, authentic learning experience of a real individual who experienced a relevant clinical scenario that nurses are likely to encounter in their careers.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Anatomy, Curriculum, Education, Images, Nurse, Post Mortem Computed Tomography (PMCT), Teaching and learning, Video


Rutty, J., Biggs, M., Dowsett, D., Kitchener, A., Coltman, N. and Rutty, G. (2019) Post mortem computed tomography: An innovative tool for teaching anatomy with pre-registration nursing curricula. Nurse Education Today, 76, pp.154-164.


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care